United can still finish top four – Guardiola

The Red Devils, who are nine points adrift of the Champions League places at present, are not being written off by the Manchester City boss

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is adamant rivals Manchester United have the quality to finish in the top four of the Premier League this season.

United have drawn their past three Premier League fixtures and face an uphill battle to secure a Champions League berth for next season, with Jose Mourinho’s men sixth in the standings.

Mata: Utd have potential and desire

Sunday’s late 1-1 draw at Everton left United nine points behind fourth-placed City and 13 points adrift of leaders Chelsea after 14 rounds.

But while the title may be a step too far, Guardiola insists United remain a contender for European football.

“How they played lately, yes,” Guardiola replied when asked if United can still qualify for the Champions League ahead of City’s clash against Celtic on Tuesday.

“I saw the games against Stoke, Burnley and another one at Old Trafford. They deserve by far to win those games. But football is like this.

Mou more like Wenger every day

“Of course United have the quality, for the history, the managers and the players to be there.

“It is a long distance [for the title] and it won’t be easy but to be in the top four, of course.”

Everton confirm serious knee injury for Bolasie

The DR Congo international was forced off during Sunday’s draw with Manchester United, and now faces an extended spell on the sidelines

Everton have confirmed that winger Yannick Bolasie will require surgery on what they describe as a “serious” injury to his knee.

The 27-year-old was substituted in the 68th minute of Sunday’s 1-1 Premier League draw with Manchester United and was sent for scans on the problem.

Hummels was close to joining United

The club have since announced that Bolasie has sustained cruciate ligament damage and will be operated on this week.

“Yannick Bolasie will undergo surgery after sustaining a serious knee ligament injury against Manchester United on Sunday,” an Everton statement said.

Yannick Bolasie to undergo knee surgery after scans confirmed a serious ligament injury against @ManUtd. Come back stronger, Yannick. pic.twitter.com/9zCPMqdw4D

— Everton (@Everton) December 5, 2016

“Scans have now confirmed anterior cruciate ligament damage to the right knee. Bolasie will undergo surgery in the next few days.”

Initial reports have suggested that he could be out for the remainder of the season.

Bolasie has been ever-present in Ronald Koeman’s side since arriving from Crystal Palace in August for a reported fee of £27million.

The DR Congo international has scored one goal and provided four assists in those 16 appearances in all competitions.

'It was very close' – Hummels claims he almost joined Man Utd in 2014

Louis van Gaal was keen to lure the defender to Old Trafford two years ago, according to the Germany international

Mats Hummels says he was “very close” to joining Manchester United when Louis van Gaal was manager in 2014.

The Germany international was heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford while he was still at Borussia Dortmund, but a move to the Premier League failed to materialise.

Any chance of Hummels swapping Germany for England was ended for the time being in the close-season when the defender opted to leave Dortmund for fierce Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich.

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Hummels claims there was also interest from La Liga powerhouses Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, but the most concrete proposal came from United two years ago.

“Yes, [a deal was close],” Hummels told the Daily Mail. “Yes, yes, yes. It was close. Very close. 

“There were talks, several times in the last few years. They were the offers. I had England or one of the three big Spanish clubs.

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“The Spanish interest was loose, loose offers. I don’t like it that way. Nothing got close like the one from England. 

“Van Gaal wanted me but he wasn’t the only one. It is getting difficult for me now to play in England. I’m 28 next month and I’ve signed here for five years.”

Part of Hummels’ reasoning for staying at Dortmund was out of loyalty to former coach Jurgen Klopp.

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Under Klopp’s stewardship, Dortmund secured back-to-back league titles in 2011 and 2012 and also won the DFB-Pokal.

Hummels believes that no other coach could have achieved the same feat and is rooting for Klopp to be a success in England with Liverpool.

“We wouldn’t have had that success with another coach in Dortmund, no way. He is very emotional. All the time, on the training pitch. He can’t settle down,” he added.

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“How intense? Every day? 100 per cent! The important thing is that when he thinks he made [a mistake], he can really apologise to a player – whether that is alone or in front of the whole team. If he says something inappropriate, he realises it afterwards.

“He doesn’t take things personally. We had two big opinions, two big egos. Sometimes you can get into a fight but you know everything the next day will be okay. We could always talk about it. 

“He was never like ‘I will never forgive you for this!’ The relationship I had with him was really important.

“I can’t say I am a Liverpool fan. I don’t have a club in England. I just want Klopp to win. If he was coach of another team, I would support them. I cheer for Klopp.”

Mata: Man Utd have the potential and desire to succeed

The Red Devils dropped more Premier League points at Everton on Sunday, but their Spanish midfielder is confident they can end the calendar year on a high

Juan Mata is taking heart from the “potential” and “desire” which remains on show at Manchester United during a testing period for the club.

The Red Devils surrendered two points late on at Everton on Sunday, with Marouane Fellaini’s clumsy challenge on Idrissa Gueye allowing Leighton Baines to snatch a 1-1 draw from the penalty spot.

Once again, United had looked to be in complete control of the contest only to shoot themselves in the foot.

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That has been a recurring theme for Jose Mourinho’s men of late, with performances not being reflected in their results.

Mata remains convinced that the tide will turn, with the Spain international looking for the Old Trafford outfit to end the calendar year on a high and surge into 2017.

“I prefer to look forward, think about the potential of this squad and how united we are in the desire to convert all these draws into wins,” he wrote in a blog on his personal website

“We have to look forward; complaining about the bad luck is not worth it. We must close the games and get what we deserve. That should be the only idea in our heads.

“We have six more games to complete a very busy December and close 2016, namely, Zorya, Tottenham, Crystal Palace, West Brom, Sunderland and Middlesbrough on New Year’s Eve. Three at home and three more away, although we don’t make any distinctions. We look at the best possible finish to the year and I’m sure we can do it.”

Mou more like Wenger every day

United are starting to slip off the pace in the battle for a top-four finish, with nine points now separating them from the Champions League places.

They have, however, progressed positively in the EFL Cup and Europa League respectively and need to take inspiration from their exploits in knockout football as they seek to kick-start a frustrating top-flight campaign.

Mata will have a big part to play in that quest as, despite being benched for the trip to Goodison Park over the weekend, he has already netted five times this season.

Man Utd target Lindelof 'doesn't want to leave' Benfica

Jose Mourinho’s side have already made contact about signing the defender, but his agent claims he is happy at the Portuguese club

Manchester United target Victor Lindelof is happy at Benfica and ‘doesn’t want to leave’, according to the player’s agent.

The 22-year-old is on the radar of Jose Mourinho’s side, with Goal understanding that the Premier League club had already made contact about signing the Sweden international.

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However, agent Hasan Cetinakaya claims that his client is happy with the Portuguese club, and that he could agree a new deal to keep him with Rui Vitoria’s side.

“There are many speculations regarding Lindelof’s future, but he plays in one of the best European clubs already,” Cetinakaya told A Bola.

“There are many clubs interested in what Benfica are doing, but we are on very good terms with the president and we’ll decide Lindelof’s future together with the club.

“They will decide if he deserves a contract extension. There are many clubs interested in signing Lindelof too, but he’s happy at Benfica at the moment and doesn’t want to leave.”

A regular for Sweden’s national team, Lindelof could link up with countryman Zlatan Ibrahimovic at United, with the forward greatly impressed by what he would bring to Old Trafford.

“I think Victor is doing great things, he is playing good for Benfica, he gets a lot of responsibility for the national team now, he is growing,” Ibrahimovic told reporters.

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“Is he good enough for United? I think he’s good enough for the big clubs out there. It’s up to him what he wants. Whatever he chooses will be good for him.

“I know he is hot on the market so let him make the right choice, what fits him good.”